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Examination of Resilience and Role Conflict among Fire/Emergency Medical Service Personnel in the Midst of Disaster 

Abstract

Objective

In the event of a manmade or natural disaster, police, fire, and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel are essential front-line first responders.  The ability of police, fire, and EMS agencies to provide adequate services is contingent upon critical response personnel working and functioning in an efficient manner. Currently, it is assumed that first responders will continue to work in the event of a disaster, even if they are personally impacted by the disaster to which they are expected to respond. However, first responders are susceptible to the same fears and concerns as the general public when they and their loved ones are personally impacted by a disaster.  This project will provide information on what can be expected from those whom society relies upon in the midst of a disaster -- police, fire and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel-- when they are personally impacted by the catastrophe to which they are responding.  Specifically, the project examines issues and concerns that may impede professional response, as well as the coping strategies that foster resilience among first responders during a disaster.  The project examines these issues among police, fire, and EMS personnel who served as first responders during the Hurricane Katrina crisis in New Orleans, Louisiana and Gulfport, Mississippi (2005), and the earthquake in Santiago, Chile (2010).

Completed Project Overview

This project provides information on "what can be expected" from those whom society relies upon in the midst of a disaster -- police, fire andemergency medical service (EMS) personnel -- when they are personally impacted by the catastrophe to which they are expected to respond toprofessionally. Specifically, the project examines resilience and role conflict among police, fire, and EMS personnel who served as firstresponders during major natural disasters: the Hurricane Katrina crisis in New Orleans, Louisiana and Gulfport, Mississippi (2005), as well asthe earthquake in Santiago, Chile (2010), and the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan (2011).

The primary goal of the project was to collect data that contributes to the body of knowledge regarding human dilemmas that affect the decision-making processes of first responders duringcrisis events.Data has been collected to address the following research questions: (1) How were first responders impacted by role conflict during theirprevious disaster experience? (2) What issues and concerns impede professional responses? (3) What coping strategies are useful in fosteringresilience among first responders at the height of a disaster? (4) What motivated adaptive responses despite the dilemmas and hardships facedat the height of the disaster? (5) What issues may impede police, fire, and EMS personnel from responding to a future disaster?

To address the research questions the study has employed a mixed method approach utilizing quantitative and qualitative researchmethodologies.

The project has been carried out in three phases for each of the study sites, they include: (1) collection of backgroundinformation; (2) collection of survey data; and (3) collection of face-to-face interview data.

Both phases two and three included a retrospective analysis (review of what has happened in the past), and a prospective analysis (anticipation of what can happen in the future) of the issuesfacing police, fire, and EMS personnel in the event of a disaster.

In an effort to build on the existing database, the project collected background information on the Hurricane Sandy disaster in New York andNew Jersey (i.e. reviewed media reports, surveyed the damages, spoke with residents), and the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan (i.e.reviewed media reports) during the last year of the project. Neither of these two sites were part of the original list of sites selected for theproject. Fortunately, the project was afforded permission to use project funds to collect data on fire fighters who served during the earthquakein Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Specifically, interview data were collected on fire fighter and emergency medical personnel that worked duringthe 2011 disaster. 



Principal Investigator(s) and Researchers(s)

Terri Adams-Fuller, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator, PACER